Parents have a lot of choices to make during their children’s lives. Today’s parents wrestle with how much screen time kids should have, as well as what they should watch. Picking a streaming package is a decision that’s about more than your entertainment when you’re a parent. It also involves your children’s learning and shapes how they see the world.
This guide provides a look at what exists in today's sometimes-confusing and crowded streaming landscape, to help determine the best streaming services for parents and their kids.
- Sling: Competitively priced with a solid family add-on
- Fubo: Loaded with channels, but lacking Disney options
- Hulu with Live TV: Tons of movies complement its channels
- Vidgo: New kid on the block is good with kids
- YouTube TV: Solid overall, but missing the Nickelodeon channels
- Frndly: Billed as a family-friendly network, but for which families?
- Disney Plus: At $6.99, you want this as part of your mix
- What's the verdict? Our recommendations
Best streaming services for kids: Options for parents to consider
|Orange + Blue||$50|
Sling TV provides two base channel package options, each priced at $30 per month. Sling Orange includes the Disney Channel, which gives it the edge for families over Sling Blue, which includes Nick Jr. and sports channels like NFL Network as well as local channels. (Sling Blue customers in select markets get NBC, see if yours has it here.) Both carry the Cartoon Network to satisfy older kids and Epix, which includes movies geared toward families among its offerings. Sling Orange + Blue combines both packages for just $45 per month, placing it nearly $10 below Fubo TV's and Hulu with Live TV's base price points.
The Kids Extra package is $5 a month, and can be added to any of the three base options. That means Blue subscribers can get the Disney Channel, and everyone gets these additional channels, providing entertainment for kids ranging from their first years to their teen years.
- Disney Junior
- Disney XD
- Nick Jr.
Other features include a Free Cloud DVR tier for all subscribers (allowing 10 hours of recording a month), the ability to record all live linear channels, and no VOD preemption on any channels. New subscribers get $10 off the first month.
How to use AirTV with Sling
AirTV solves one of the Sling’s biggest problems: The inability to receive all of your local channels. By purchasing a basic AirTV for $79.99 or the AirTV Player for $119.99, you can merge those local channels into your Sling TV, (or on your mobile device if you have the basic AirTV). As the Daily Dot wrote in its AirTV review, “It’s practically magic.”
The basic AirTV is a dual-tuner streaming device, while the AirTV Player is basically an upgraded Chromecast that has Netflix preinstalled. You’ll still need to own an HD antenna because even though AirTV gets you access to your local channels, it doesn’t actually physically show them to you.
But AirTV—which has no monthly fee—gives Sling users the ability to access all local channels to add to whichever Sling package is the best fit for them.
FuboTV is a solid TV streaming service option with a good selection of local channels. Depending on your market, you’ll have access to CBS, Fox, and NBC and those local affiliates.
Fubo leans heavily toward sports, but has some kids' channels in its Standard and Family packages, including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Universal Kids. One thing you'll notice, though, is a lack of Disney channels—until Fubo strikes a deal with the ABC/Disney/ESPN conglomerate, that's going to be an absence felt by parents and sports fans.
While the Fubo Family channel means more DVR time and more screens to dole out to family members, it doesn't actually add more channels geared toward families. The Ultra package throws in Universal Kids and additional Nickelodeon channels, but it's a big jump from the entry-level $54.99 a month to Ultra's considerable $79.99 a month.
FuboTV also has bilingual families in mind but it leans heavily toward sports. Each subscription comes with UniMás, Galavisión, NBC Universo, beIN SPORTS, Univision, and Fox Deportes. An extra $7.99 per month will bring you Latino Plus, which includes CNN en Español and TyC Sports among its offerings.
|Hulu Live TV||$64.99|
|Hulu Live TV |
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Hulu with Live TV includes a broad array of entertainment and sports programming among its offerings. There's a good base of channels to appeal to kids, starting with the Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD trio, but also including Boomerang, Cartoon Network, and Universal Kids.
As a subscriber to the service, you'll get free access to Hulu’s sizable on-demand library, and that's where the real value of Hulu for kids comes into play. Though the interface can be a little confusing, Hulu does a good job of not only regularly updating its archives, but also showcasing the newly added movies to its kids' section display.
Vidgo offers a package for under $40 a month (and currently on sale for $30 a month) that pulls together more than 60 English-language channels, the National Core English Package. There's also a National Plus English Package, with more than 90 channels, for just $10 more.
For families, the lower-priced Core package getting you these kid-specific channels:
- Disney Channel
- Disney Junior
- Disney XD
- Kids Central
- Nick Jr.
At the Plus level, these three children's channels are added to the mix:
- Baby TV
- Discovery Family
If you just want your Vidgo en Español, which is how Vidgo started, it features programming from throughout the Americas and even Spain in two skinny packages.
Also, through its Vidgo app, it's offering the option of Social TV, which allows Vidgo users to connect in real-time as they're watching programming on their phones. (That might actually be a feature that gives parents pause, come to think of it!)
YouTube TV is a great option for people who want a streaming package that includes local channels, offering all the major options in a great number of markets. YouTube TV is also a great option for sports fans, including the full suite of ESPN and Fox channels, TNT, NBCSN, and broadcasting partnerships with three MLS teams.
It's also got some strong kids programming, including the three Disney channels and Universal Kids. But if you're wanting Nickelodeon's three channels, they're simply not here, and YouTube TV doesn't have a kid-specific add-on package. Curiosity Stream at $3 a month is as close as it gets. (Take a look at the full list of YouTube TV channels here.)
Frndly declares itself to be a family-friendly streaming service, and it's priced well below the major streaming services listed above, but there's a reason for this. At just 14 channels (with a 15th boarding by the end of April), it's skinnier than most. And, what's more, it doesn't have the selection of child-specific programming the other services do.
There's BabyFirst TV, and some channels with wholesome entertainment like PixL and Light TV. There's far like the Game Show Network that a family could theoretically watch together and enjoy. But there's no Disney, no Nickoledeon, nothing that potentially skirts an edge whatsoever.
Though there might be parents who see the mix and like what they see, this is likely more a supplemental selection rather than a streaming service a family would want to rely on for its primary entertainment needs.
Disney+, on the other hand, has a treasure trove of content from the motherlode of children's entertainment. Even if you have the trio of Disney channels on your package and you have access to their on-demand content, this gives you movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and the Star Wars Universe instantly and helpfully.
As the Daily Dot noted in a January 2020 review, "Due to the merger between Disney and Fox, Disney+ gets to show what happens when two intellectual property juggernauts join forces. You get almost all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, The Simpsons, the Muppets, National Geographic, the Disney Vault, and Fox’s family-friendly movies all for one absurdly low price each month. In addition, the low monthly cost includes 4K streaming for select titles, and new original series, including the first live-action Star Wars TV show."
It goes on to say, "That means every Disney animated film since the 1930s, including A Goofy Movie in glorious HD. If you’ve ever sat around at the holidays trying to find something to watch for the whole crew, Disney+ fixes that problem. There are no R-rated titles, just a small yet mighty selection of PG-13 movies."
A number of parents navigating the 2020 coronavirus social distancing requirements already have "Disney+ is saving me" stories. (For my wife and I, we're thrilled our toddler has fallen for the charming 2019 Aladdin remake starring Will Smith, as well as the Disney original series Elena of Avalor. Just the existence of those two titles has increased our new home office productivity by at least 40%.)
At $6.99 per month, it's a great deal by itself, but in combining with Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month, it's an even better deal. You get access to all of Hulu's movie content and get a great sports streaming service to boot.
Best streaming services for parents and the kids: The verdict
As you can see, there are a lot of choices available for parents looking to put together a streaming package. Cost is obviously going to be a factor for a lot of parents, so in putting together a package, we wanted to be mindful of the budget. Many people, after all, make the leap to streaming from cable because they're conscious about costs.
One thing that's clear, right away, is that Disney+ is an essential part of a streaming package for parents. Taking the $12.99 option that includes Hulu and ESPN+ means access to Hulu's movie library, which is a big bonus.
Of the major streaming services on the table, Vidgo and Sling offer the most choices, but Sling's got a little more flexibility with its Kids Extra package, and a little more history in the streaming game. A Sling Blue and Kids Extra package, after the first month discount, runs just $35 a month, and by adding Disney+'s bundle package for $12.99, you're streaming lots of kid-friendly content for just under $50 a month. If you can't do without ESPN's channels, Sling Orange vs. Blue is just $15 more.
Frndly, though its appeal is debatable, is only $6 more and brings additional channels, though there may be overlap with whichever of the major streaming services you land on.
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